Town Must Make Genuine Amends

Letters to the Editor

Originally Published November 7, 2019 in the Arlington Advocate

On Oct. 28, the town manager supposedly presented an update on the Pedrini case to the Select Board. Yet, other than a more conciliatory tone toward those concerned about the officer’s reinstatement, he only offered a nearly-verbatim recap of his August open letter to the town.

Mr. Chapdelaine also did finally — after an entire year since they have been published — publicly deem Pedrini’s columns as racist. However, he immediately undermined that statement by then asserting that Pedrini himself is not racist. A powerful white man such as the town manager absolving another powerful white man of racism is itself symptomatic of white supremacy. The town manager’s comments make it less safe for people of color who may have suffered from discriminatory treatment by Pedrini or other officers on the APD to come forward.

As for the actual content of Mr. Chapdelaine’s statement, he continued to boast of the anti-bias trainings the APD is undergoing. However, nothing in his list of trainings so far includes anything that addresses addiction, disability or mental illness — even as these demographics were heavily targeted by Pedrini’s violent rhetoric and comprise the lion’s share of those imprisoned and victimized by police violence in our nation. I also did not see any anti-bias trainings that focus on anti-Blackness. However, C4RJ, the majority-white, police-funded organization that facilitated the very questionable RJ process Pedrini underwent that is now suffering from so much criticism, did offer a so-called anti-bias training.

Chapdelaine’s August letter betrayed a serious lack of understanding about restorative justice — which usually must consider and reject cases with substantial power disparities between the offender and those harmed — one that is undeniable when the offender in question in this case is an armed officer charged with policing the very populations he has advocated violence against. This has more dire implications considering Pedrini’s checkered history, which includes restraining orders and other arguably bigoted columns pre-dating 2018.

The town needs to start focusing on making genuine amends with those whose trust it violated. This means being consistently truthful and transparent about Pedrini’s past and owning up to their white privilege, and their resultant blind spots and biases.

Ultimately, if vulnerable people are to feel safe in Arlington again, Pedrini will either need to be terminated or — in the absence of that possibility — be placed on permanent desk duty and denied all opportunities to interact with the marginalized communities he threatened.

Laura Kiesel
Massachusetts Avenue